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UCI rankings updates - what it means for Olympic Dreams - with a focus on the British

It's time for the latest round of UCI rankings! I know, I know, this usually doesn't mean very much, but it's Olympic year, and for the women, the UCI rankings determine how many riders compete in the road race. And there have been changes this month too - good times for the USA, not so good for our Swedish friends

Rankings at 25th March 2012
Rankings at 23rd April 2012
1 Netherlands - 3,797 - 4 riders Netherlands - 3,322 points - 4 riders
2 Germany - 2,430 - 4 riders Germany - 2,418 points - 4 riders
3 Italy - 1,699 - 4 riders Italy - 1,618 - 4 riders
4 Sweden - 1,334 - 4 riders USA - 1,168 - 4 riders
5 Great Britain - 1,310 - 4 riders Great Britain - 1,161 - 4 riders
6 USA - 1,069 - 3 riders Sweden - 1,075 - 3 riders
7 Russia - 929 - 3 riders Russia - 847 - 3 riders
8 Australia - 800 - 3 riders Australia - 821 - 3 riders
9 Belgium - 668 - 3 riders Canada - 678 - 3 riders
Canada - 632 - 3 riders Belgium - 561 - 3 riders

You can see the full rankings here - and I wrote in more detail about the rules, if you want to know more - but the simple version is that the rankings are worked out by looking at the UCI points for the top 5 riders from each nation - taking away the points won in the the equivalent month last year, and adding those won in this year's period.

So what happened this month? Well, as I wrote last week, Evelyn Stevens winning the Flèche Wallonne, and Kristin Armstrong's 2nd place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen gave the USA a huge boost - while Emma Johansson's late start to the season, after a car hit her and broke both her collarbones hasn't helped Sweden, neither has losing all the points gained by Isabelle Söderberg last year, as this year's March-April points total replaces last year's in the rankings.

There are still another five weeks to go before the final rankings are announced, with some big races ahead, so there's plenty of time for more change. Sweden and Great Britain will be the teams hoping it goes their way - and below the jump I'll tell you more about the issues facing the Brits - with a dose of polemica and just a bit of fangirl action!


There's one rider who has to be a certainty for the British Olympic team - especially as Britain has two sports in the ITT. Emma Pooley is a time trialling superstar - World Champion in 2010 and Olympic silver medallist in 2008 - who is also well-known on the roads for her suicide breakaways. Some say she's allergic to riding in the peloton, but she's never a rider to just sit out - always looking for another place to attack. I loved the video of last year's Trofeo Binda, where she'd tried to get away so many times that it seemed as though the peloton just gave up trying to stop her - and the moment in the 2010 GP de Plouay, when she took advantage of Marianne Vos looking over her left shoulder to attack up the right hand side, and by the time Vos turned her head, was already gone.

It's not just her skills that make Pooley such a fun rider to follow - she gives great interview too. I love the Pooley quotes, like this one on Marianne Vos: "She’s a lot easier to beat when she’s not there!", and her hopes for the 2010 Giro Donne: "I’m hoping for the Mortirolo-Gavia combination, then we can ride down to Bormio for ice cream" - but see if you can find your own favourites in this interview on VN, this one from Bicycling, and this one with Jen See, right here on Podium Café.

Pooley's at her dazzling best on the climbs, and I'm still grumpy that British Cycling didn't put forward an Olympic course more suited to her skills, so if she doesn't get away, who might Britain be looking at if it gets sprinty? Step forward Pooley's team-mate, Lizzie Armitstead.


The Olympics have brought some hard decisions for Armitstead. She started off as a track superstar, but she's chosen to focus solely on the roads for this season - and she's been a bit of a revelation. She's always been a fast, sneaky (in the best way) sprinter, but because of the track, she's never really had a full Spring Classics road season. I wondered how AA would deal with having so many good sprinters on their books, but she and Kirsten Wild have played their tactics beautifully - Armitstead going out early, with Wild sitting on the chase in case she's caught. She's been a lot of fun to watch this season - and she's still only 23! But has she done enough to be lead rider for the British team? Here's where the polemica is liable to slip in, and the reason GB really need their fourth rider - who should the British team focus on - Lizzie Armitstead or Nicole Cooke?


Cooke is one of the greats of British cycling - becoming the first woman to win the Olympic and World Championships road race in the same year as been the peak (so far) of a career full of achievements. Unfortunately, it also seemed to give her a doubly-hard hit of the Rainbow Curse, and her years since have been marred by problems with her team and her health. But it's easy to underestimate her achievements since then, too - there aren't many riders whose "bad" years include wins in the Giro Donne and a 4th place in the World Road Championships!

So she should be a shoe-in, right? Well, her 2012 hasn't started well, with stomach problems forcing her to pull out of the Flèche Wallonne, and more importantly, while she's an aggressive, exciting rider when she's well, she's not well-known for riding for others. The 2011 World Champs was followed by polemica in the press between Cooke and Armitstead - fuelled, admittedly, BY the Press - and while both say all that is behind them, the British team's biggest problem could be not who to include, but how to ride. If they manage to keep their four riders, maybe they don't even try to ride as a full team, but have Cooke as a lone wolf?

And if they do have four riders, who will be that fourth?


I have always been a fan of Sharon Laws. She's one of those killer domestiques, in the Jens! mould, completely committed and ready to drive herself into the ground for her team. You'll often see her in early suicide breaks, forcing people to chase - because if you let her, she'll end up on the podium, like in Stage 2 of last year's Giro Donne.

But it's not just her riding that makes her such a fun rider - she really does have the best "how I accidentally got into cycling" story ever - even better than Evelyn Stevens'! You can read all about it in this BikeRadar profile (with the fantastic line "In her accounts of these races, which typically included running, cycling, kayaking and rope work, the phrase "I ended up on a drip after that one" seems to crop up with alarming regularity", or in my interview with her last year, here on the Café. I'd pick Laws for my team in a heartbeat - but if not Laws, there are two other Brits, both working hard in the pro teams, who will be wanting that place - and if they don't make it this time, definitely watch out for them in Rio in 2016!



So, hard times for the British team - and getting the fourth rider confirmed is just the start of the problem. Watch out for their results over the coming month - and any ideas of how YOU'D manage this team.... add it to the comments!

And for more on the Olympic races and rules - and who is in the mix for the Australian and USA teams, follow the links!